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D is for Dinner

Posted by on November 16, 2012

Central to the Christmas celebrations is the large family dinner. Not everyone will have dinner at the same time or have the same food, but they will all try to have as many family members together as possible. Some people might go out for dinner as they don’t want to have the hassle of cooking for a large group. In the UK traditionally you will only few choices and they will be mainly hotel restaurants. Others might stay at home.

When home cooking, it takes a lot of effort and energy to first come up with the meal plan and second to cook it all in time. It can be quite a military operation, especially when you have a large family! Over Christmas many, mainly women, will spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing food. Plans will have been written on what needs to be cooked when, how long it will take and what ingredients are needed. Often alternatives will have been made, just in case something goes wrong.

Hence I always try to have a trial meal well before Christmas to try out the dishes. This is a lot of fun and of course a great photo opportunity.

I know you are not allowed to play with food, but recording your efforts is too good an opportunity to pass by.

There are two main problems with food photography:

First of all the state of the food, as fresh food specifically only stays good for a short period of time.  Often you will only have one or two chances to get your photo. Preparation therefore is key. Make sure the surface is clean and all clutter is out of the way. Have a dry run of the photos you want to take. Where do you need to stand with the camera or when do you need to stop? Take some test images without the products in there, to see if you are correct in what you want to do. Once you are happy with the dry run you can go for the real thing.

Second problem is the kitchen itself, specifically lighting and steam. Evening photography is most difficult as you will have to have an artificial light to work with. Sometimes flash can help but it often reflects on your produce, so it is better to work without if you can. During daylight you might have a false light coming in and therefore need to have an additional light source or reflector to work with. For both day and night photography you will need to pay attention to shadows. In the beginning many of my images were ruined by the shadow of myself over the products! Hence the dry run is so useful.

Of course on Christmas day you will not have this luxury to do dry runs or take time to work out where to stand. Especially with a stressed and overheated chef in the kitchen. Hence for Christmas food photography it is better to go for generic scene photos. Who is in the kitchen and what are they doing? Try to go for the gentle moments when for example mother and child are working together at making dishes. I try to not be visible when taking images so you get those fine moments.

Over dinner, focus again on the small moments. Don’t have the camera constantly in your hand, after all you want to enjoy your food and of course the good company. But focus on the start and the end of the meal. If you have the option, set your camera to multiple shots at the time. This way you may avoid getting red eyes or full mouth’s on camera 🙂


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